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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Keep Discussions from Turning into Arguments

The only way you can make sure you never loose an argument, to paraphrase Dale Carnegie, is to avoid getting into one in the first place.

In a discussion everyone wins.
In an argument no one wins.

For better understanding, we need to know what are the characteristics exist in discussion and argument. For this reason, please go through the following characteristics of discussion and arguments for having a more clear understanding.

Characteristics Of Discussion
  • We treat people as partners in a problem- solving session.
  • We share ideas, consider alternatives, and evaluate the pros and cons.
  • We listen to other people’s thoughts and explore ideas we haven’t previously considered
  • We learn more about the issue, about what we think and feel, and about each others values.
  • We seek people’s support, not their resentful silence.
  • We may passionately disagree with each other but mutual respect keeps the discussion civil.
Characteristics Of Argument
  • We treat other people as opponents to be defeated.
  • We draw sides, defend our own positions, and attack the opposition.
  • If we listen at all, we do so only to find the weaknesses in the other person’s reasoning.
  • We are not open to new ideas or the possibility of changing our opinions.
  • We want to prove the superiority of our side and the weakness of the other side.
  • Even when we “win” an argument, we usually do so by losing a potential ally.
Now, as we have some basic understandings of these two term, discussion and argument, we can have some tips which will help us to keep the discussion as it is and ensuring no conversion of discussion into arguments.

Tips to keep discussions from turning into arguments:

1. Do not argue

Refuse to get drawn into an argument. Be civil. Respect the other person as much as you honour your own values. Be assertive without resorting to aggression.
2. Seek areas of agreement

Often we agree with people in principle but disagree with them in practice (we want the same thing but have different ideas of how to accomplish it). Find those areas of agreement. Make them clear. Try always to make the other person a fellow problem-solver, neither an opponent nor a friend.

3. Focus on interests, not positions

An issue is what we want or need. A position is a way of achieving it. Avoid getting attached to your positions so that you do not lose sight of your interests. It is often easier to negotiate and compromise around interests than around positions.

4. Try to see things from the other person’s point-of-view

There is a reason why other people act and think the way they do – however how illogical, wrong-headed, or misguided as it may seem to you. If you criticize them or show disapproval for their reasoning, they will only harden in their resolution. They will resent and resist you. Seek, instead, to discover their hidden reasons, and you will find the key to their motivation.

5. Ask clarifying questions

Ask open-ended questions. Closed questions – like “Do you agree with my proposal?” – limit people’s ability to express themselves. Open-ended questions – like “How do you feel about my proposal?” – give them freedom and give you more information.

6. Listen

Spend more time listening than speaking (you can not get yourself into trouble by listening, but you sure can start a brawl by speaking). Listen with your body, your eyes and your mind as well as with your ears. Try to understand what people mean, without getting caught up in the exact words they say. Make them feel understood, and they will be much more likely to try to understand you.

7. If you are wrong, admit it

There is nothing wrong with changing your opinion, once you have gained new information or perspective. As a matter of fact, it is the sign of wisdom and maturity. Remember that you have been wrong in the past even when you thought you were right, and admit that you might be wrong this time.

8. If you are right, allow the other person to save face

You are trying to win people’s cooperation, not to prove them wrong. Your kindness will do more to gain their goodwill than anything else.